Cannabis, a few things you need to know


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PainWeek 2018 has a series of conferences in different cities. This weekend 10/13-10/14, it was in San Diego teaching pain management. 

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There was a talk on cannabis by a nurse practitioner from Stanford. I would add or highlight a few things.

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There are two species:

–Indica often said to help pain, sleep.

–Sativa more activating, for daytime use.

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Most are hybrids. Some people have opposite responses. It may be contraindicated for those with bipolar disorder. Those with multiple sclerosis may use it for spasticity. It can help depression but may cause anxiety, depression, paranoia, etc.

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The plant has 400 chemicals. More than 90 are cannabinoids. Two best known cannabinoids:

–THC is psychoactive.

–CBD has no psychoactive properties and does not make you high. In recent years, it has been found to help certain forms of epilepsy in children who are resistant to all known epilepsy medication.

–THCV has been said to prevent the munchies. Only one strain I know of has this cannabinoid, Durban Poison.

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It is not necessary to have THC for pain relief. Pain in some patients may respond to CBD alone.

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Tolerance does develop. It becomes less and less effective with use.

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Side Effects: the very worst is the munchies – deadly weight gain. Dry eyes and dry mouth can affect all, but for those with Sjogren’s Syndrome, it increases the risk of corneal transplants and loss of teeth that already exists and can be a serious problem. It can increase heart rate and blood pressure especially in those who have never used cannabis.

 

Update 10/19/18, cannabis may boost risk of stroke. The drug has system-wide effects therefor not limited to smoking it. Note that we have known it does increase heart rate and blood pressure, at least initially when starting use, but may develop tolerance to side effect with regular use – or not. The new study does not indicate how much cannabis these patients were using, their ages and blood pressure baseline and during use. Was their use conservative or were they overdosing, couch locked, less active than usual?

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  • Stroke increased by 15% among marijuana users between 2010 and 2014
  • Rates of stroke in non-cannabis users stayed constant over that time
  • Compounds in cannabis may cause blood vessels in the brain to narrow

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Rates of stroke among non-cannabis users didn’t change. However, rates among recreational users jumped by 15 per cent.

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“Avalon University researchers…analysed 2.3 million people between the ages of 18 an 84 who used cannabis recreationally and spent time in hospital from 2010-to-2014.

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Of these, 32,231 – 1.4 per cent – had a stroke.

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And 19,452 had an acute ischemic stroke (AIS), which occurs when blood supply to an area of the brain is suddenly cut off, leading to a loss of cognitive function.

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Over the four years, the rate of all strokes among marijuana users rose from 1.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent. And AIS increased from 0.7 per cent to 0.9 per cent.

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The research was presented today at the World Stroke Congress in Montreal.

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They scientists believe their findings ‘warrant further prospective studies to evaluate the marijuana-stroke association amidst legalisation of recreational use’.

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But the study contradicts previous research that suggests smoking cannabis can actually reduce the risk of stroke by boosting blood flow to the brain.

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Marijuana has also been linked to faster recovery post stroke.

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Stroke is the second leading cause of death and disability globally, with one person passing away from the condition every six seconds.

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Around 140,000 people die from stroke in the US and 32,000 in the UK every year.

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Leafly.com is a nationwide resource for locations where cannabis is legal, listing strains and dispensaries by zip code. For each local strain it shows a bar graph of EffectsMedical, Negatives. Negatives may include dry eyes, dry mouth, sleep, anxiety, paranoia, headache, etc. rated by buyers. For example, one strain may be rated 100% dry eyes, but only 50% dry mouth. Each strain is different. But dry eyes, dry mouth are the most common, always highly prevalent, whereas paranoia, dizziness, anxiety may be rated only 3%.

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FDA has approved 2 THC compounds available for medical use:

–Dronabinol (Marinol), schedule III drug. I have never seen a single person with cancer pain, HIV AIDS pain or chronic pain benefit. Instead they complain about it, including those who heavily used cannabis.

–Nabilone (Cesamet), a schedule II drug. I had it diluted 10 times for a healthy senior with intractable pain. He hallucinated for 12 hours after a tiny dose. I’ve never seen a plant do this.

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More research is greatly needed. It has primary effect on the immune system in brain and body including neuro-inflammation in the central nervous system and the skeletal cannabinoid system. It is anti-inflammatory. In the brain, the microglia makes and reabsorbs one of the endogenous cannabinoids made by the brain. Studies show cannabis can help pain but almost all of my patients who tried many many strains reported that it failed to help intractable pain. Others stopped due to side effects. But I have seen patients with intractable pain and treatment resistant migraine who responded to CBD alone.

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Use the search function top left above photo for previous posts on cannabis.

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Beware the munchies and weight gain. It can be deadly. That effect can be life-saving in cancer patients and end of life care.

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Urine drug testing does not always include cannabis. It may be present in urine for up to 2 months. Don’t even think about getting on a plane with cannabis.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Spinal cord stimulators: ~ 10% are good candidates. Pulling out more than putting in


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PainWeek 2018 has a series of conferences in different cities. This weekend 10/13-10/14, it was in San Diego teaching pain management. Thank those who funded this 2 day program for doctors and healthcare providers to bring us up to date in the field.

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Anesthesiology pain specialist Michael Bottros, MD, Associate Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine, Washington University St. Louis, made a comment on spinal cord stimulators:

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They are pulling out more than they are putting in. Only 10% are good candidates.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Spinal Cord Stimulators – Shortcomings of Evidence


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Shortcomings of Evidence for

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Spinal Cord Stimulators

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The journal Practical Pain Management has published a presentation of spinal cord stimulators, SCS’s, made at the International Association for Study of Pain, IASP, World Congress. This adds greatly to my concern that they not be trialed for those who have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, CRPS. About 8,000 visits per year on my website, double any other topic on pain, are about the damage these devices have inflicted, and the comments are gruesome. See search function, top left above small photo.

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John Markman, MD, recounts what’s currently on the table for SCS and how much more is needed for adequate pain relief. A 2018 IASP World Congress on Pain highlight.”

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“In a presentation titled “Yes, We Now Have the Evidence, But..,.” John Markman, MD, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester, outlined some shortcomings of the existing evidence for spinal cord stimulation (SCS) including heterogeneous populations studies.Dr. Markman’s main concern with SCS is the level of uncertainty he has with the procedure—how it works, whom it works for, and the non-specific treatment effects of the procedure. To rectify this, he has begun to conduct crossover studies in his practice to get a better grasp of these questions. “Imagine if, in 2018, the indication for putting in a spinal cord stimulation system were as matched to mechanism as a cardiac pacemaker,” Dr. Markman posed the audience, noting that SCS implementation remains heavily dependent on self-reporting.”

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…snip…

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“Existing Evidence”

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“SCS technology is still evolving, Dr. Markman said. While self-reporting is still prevalent, what has changed in the past five decades is the upgrade from a single case report to prospective, multinational, randomized clinical trials. One landmark trial, for instance, randomized 100 failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) patients with predominant leg pain of neuropathic radicular origin to receive SCS plus conventional medical management (the SCS group) or conventional medical management alone (the CMM group) for at least 6 months.Compared with the CMM group, the SCS group experienced improved leg and back pain relief, quality of life, and functional capacity, as well as greater treatment satisfaction. Between 6 and 12 months, five SCS patients switched to CMM, and 32 CMM patients switched to SCS. At 12 months, 27 SCS patients (32%) had experienced device-related complications. In selected patients with FBSS, SCS provided better pain relief and improved health-related quality of life and functional capacity compared with CMM alone.”

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“Other significant trials for SCS include North, et al, from 2005,3 and Kemler, et al, from 2008.4 “This is an era marked by open-label studies,” Dr. Markman said. Enormous technical innovation, improvement of clinical trial designs, and larger study populations (prospective, head-to-head), are just some of the factors leading these recent advancements.”

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“Evidence Still Needed”

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“Despite the success in recent years of more trials being applied to SCS, many questions have yet to be addressed. For instance, the totality of study participants to date is only 973, a study population that is “poorly characterized,” according to Dr. Markman. “Chronic pain after spine surgery, that’s an iatrogenic injury, and it’s a very heterogeneous group of patients, some of who have axial-predominant neuropathic pain.” In one study,5 of 97 subjects who completed a trial of HF10 therapy, 90 (92.8%) had significant back pain relief and were eligible for an implant of an SCS system. In comparison, 81 of 92 subjects (88.0%) were successfully trialed with traditional SCS (P = 0.33). “Which is incredibly high in my opinion. Think about in your own practice how many times you’ve tried someone on a therapy for a heterogeneous pain problem, some of which is nociceptive, some of which is neuropathic…and 92% of them get relief? It just doesn’t reflect anything in my practice,” Dr. Markman said.”

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“In addition to this, the lack of blinding in trials, as well as the lack of controls, makes the results weaker by design. External challenges include the regulatory framework for devices being much less rigorous for analgesic drugs, for example. Study sponsorship has also been an issue, as many current studies that are industry-sponsored have a clear publication bias compared to payor studies that are normally negative in nature, Dr. Markman suggested.”

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“Devices are also constantly changing. “It’s a moving target,” he said. “It’s like comparing your phone in 1967 to your phone today. It’s not really a great comparison.” A generation of studies now has emerged that has made comparisons to figure out what the on-target analgesic actions are and what non-specific treatment effects have been seen. “The disruption in technology is changing the stakeholders and how they engage,” Dr. Markman said. He concluded by noting that, due to an impact-style meeting having an enormous accelerant effect on deciding the “rules of the road” for oral analgesic trials, a group is now meeting with representatives from the International Neuromodulation Society and the North American Neuromodulation Society to develop consensus guidelines for spinal cord stimulation.”

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Have You Been a Victim of Felony Fraud Criminal Charges by Workers Compensation Insurer Because of Disabling Pain?


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No one can see pain and neuropathic pain is especially difficult to treat. It may be even more difficult because there may be no visible abnormality on X-ray or any test, e.g. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). CRPS  is further unusual as it may flare profoundly for a time and may even go into remission then flare some time later.

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But many forms of pain including chronic spine pain can flare hours later or the next day. Your walking may appear normal, but you know that limit beyond which you dare not step a foot more or revenge of the body will occur and you will be unable to function possibly for days. No doubt you’ve learned that limit may vary with the weather, or you may have good days and bad, able to walk longer or function better on good days.

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Sub rosa films are important to prevent insurance fraud. Some who claim total disability have been filmed  playing soccer, water skiing, etc. Others with legitimate total disability claims have been filmed during brief periods showing their gait appears normal. They can walk. But only for minutes.

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Abuse may exist on both sides. But it took 43 years for me to discover that pain is not an accepted medical condition for Social Security Disability even when completely disabling.

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Your comments of your personal experience would be invaluable for others. Did you experience fraud and abuse by insurers who deny medical care based on brief sub rosa films, then become victimized by criminal felony charges that produced years of extremely costly litigation?

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As long as felony criminal charges are pending, neither Medicare nor Tricare nor Social Security Disability payments can be made. No insurance, no care and litigation expenses that go on for 5 to 10 years or more in a person unable to work.

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It is important to expose fraud on all levels. If you have been a victim of Worker’s Compensation insurance fraud accused of felony misrepresentation, please comment below.  Name names of the companies.

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Perhaps there is a pattern.

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Would you be able to pay for adequate legal representation if you were unable to work or receive medical care?

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Cannabidiol (CBD) FDA Approved for Epilepsy – May Help Pain, Mood – Costs Review


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Epidiolex from GW Pharmaceuticals, is a cannabidiol (CBD) recently approved by FDA for treatment of epilepsy. Others have found CBD helpful for pain, migraine, and mood disorders. CBD is one of the more than 80 known cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, the marijuana plant. It has no psychoactive effect, that means it does not make anyone “high”. But urine drug tests will be positive for marijuana and anyone may risk losing their job if their employer checks – some drug tests do not specify marijuana.

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Medications can be prescribed off-label by your doctor for conditions other than the FDA approved epilepsy in this case, and hopefully covered by healthcare insurance. Below are costs of the Epidiolex brand reviewed by O’Shaughnessy’s newsletter, the newsletter originally for California cannabis doctors.

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FDA approval means CBD now has accepted medical use and should be no longer classified as Schedule I, though the ruse will likely be continued by congress.

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GW Pharmaceuticals PLC said it plans to charge about $32,500 per patient annually in the U.S. for its new treatment for rare forms of epilepsy, the first prescription drug derived from the marijuana plant.

Chief Executive Justin Gover said in an interview Wednesday that the company set the price to be in line with other brand-name epilepsy drugs, such as H. Lundbeck A/S’s Onfi. He noted that the FDA designated the product an “orphan drug,” meaning it treats rare conditions, and that some other orphan drugs carry higher prices.

Out-of-pocket costs for patients taking Epidiolex could range from $5 to $10 a month for those in state Medicaid programs to as high as $200 a month for some private insurance plans, Julian Gangolli, president of the company’s North America unit, said on a conference call with analysts Tuesday. Uninsured patients may qualify for receiving the drug free.

Dr. Jacqueline French, chief scientific officer of the Epilepsy Foundation, said there are low-cost generic epilepsy drugs on the market, but many patients with the rare forms of the disease have already tried them and the drugs didn’t help much.

Dr. French said Epidiolex improved symptoms for many children in clinical trials, and she is happy the price isn’t significantly higher.

The company expects to make the drug available after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration assigns it a controlled-substance classification, a decision expected by late September. GW Pharmaceuticals will distribute the drug through specialty pharmacies that ship directly to patients and caregivers.

FDA approval of a CBD extract means that cannabidiol now has an acknowledged medical use and therefore doesn’t fit a key criterion of Schedule I status. DEA rescheduling is supposed to follow as day follows night. Logically, the DEA resked should apply to cannabidiol, the molecule. But fixisin.com says CBD will remain on Sked I, with an exception created for CBD in an FDA-approved pharmaceutical.”

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Memantine for Neuropathic Pain & Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, CRPS


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Neuropathic pain syndromes show an over-expression of NMDA receptors in the brain in animal models. Ketamine blocks the NMDA receptor. Another medication with the same mechanism, but in pill form is memantine. This report on six patients of the use of memantine for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) from 2007 in the Clinical Journal of Pain, six months after treatment with memantine, showed significant decrease in pain, improved motor symptoms and autonomic changes, and fMRI changes on the affected side improving, comparable to the unaffected side of the brain.

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It was approved for Alzheimer’s dementia gradually titrating to a dose of 28 mg/day, but for decades has been very useful off label for neuropathic pain including but not limited to CRPS, at a dose of 55 mg/day, and in recent years often prescribed for migraine.

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Ketamine is highly successful also for treatment resistant depression, and one patient, a psychiatrist disabled from the unfortunate triad of intractable neuropathic pain, migraine and treatment resistant depression, while slowly titrating to a dose of 55 mg/day, a process that takes almost 3 months, found depression relieved for the first time in decades at the dose of 35 mg. It was highly effective as one component of the multi-pronged approach for all three conditions.

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This life is a hard fact. We all need all the help, encouragement and positive attitudes we can get. Complex intractable pain and/or depression requires rational polypharmacy, selectively chosen based upon well known mechanisms, neurotransmitters, receptors, hormones, stress reduction, cognitive behavioral therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nerve blocks, and spiritual understanding, etc. Several choices were summarized almost two years ago here.

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In my experience, memantine is very well tolerated with few if any side effects but covered by insurance only for mild to moderate dementia. Thus, not only is it highly challenging to treat neuropathic pain, but important to creatively meet the challenges of our backwards medical system that barely recognizes the needs of those with chronic pain.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Opioids increase risk of chronic pain – potentiate pain – faster, stronger, longer. Activate TLR4 receptor on microglia, blocked by low dose naltrexone (LDN)


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Professor Linda Watkins was the distinguished keynote speaker at the May 2015 American Pain Society annual meeting and gave the NIH 2015 Kreshover Lecture:

“Targeting Glia to Treat Chronic Pain: Moving from Concept to Clinical Trials.”

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The University of Colorado at Boulder describes her work

She has authored or co-authored over 190 book chapters, review articles and journal articles.

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Dr. Watkins’ research focuses on 3 inter-related areas. Her primary research interest is understanding how to control clinically relevant pathological pain states. Her group’s research points to a novel reason that clinical pain has been impossible to successfully control. That is, pathological pain is being created and maintained by a surprising cell type, namely glia. These cells, upon activation, dysregulate normal pain processing by the spinal cord neurons.

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Medical News Today published news of her recent study April 19, 2018

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“Opioids may increase risk of chronic pain.” They potentiate pain “faster, stronger, longer” and activate the TLR4 receptor on microglia. That receptor is blocked by low dose naltrexone (LDN).

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Opioids trigger inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. This is an elegant study by renowned Prof. Linda Watkins at the University of Colorado Boulder, with Peter Grace. His early work on LDN brought him from Australia to postdoc at her lab and now research at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

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“Having been used in one form or another for millennia, opioids beat pain into submission, quickly making the patient more comfortable. The latest study, which was carried out at the University of Colorado Boulder, turns this firmly held notion on its head.

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Senior author Prof. Linda Watkins, from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, says, ominously, “[…] there is another dark side of opiates that many people don’t suspect.”

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In this case, it is not addiciton issues that Prof. Watkins is referring to. Paradoxically, opioids may actually prolong pain following surgery. The results were published recently in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia.

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Postsurgical pain and opioids examined

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For the study, Prof. Watkins and colleague Peter Grace, of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, carried out laparotomies on male mice. This procedure involves making an incision through the abdominal wall to access the interior of the abdomen, and it is done on tens of thousands of U.S. individuals each year.

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“Opiates are really effective for acute pain relief. There is no drug that works better. But very little research has been done to look at what it is doing in the weeks to months after it’s withdrawn.”

Peter Grace

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Following surgery, one group of rats received the equivalent of a moderate dose of morphine for the next 7 days, while another group received morphine for 8 days, and the dosage was tapered off by day 10.

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Another group was given morphine for 10 days, after which point treatment stopped abruptly. A final group was given saline injections rather than morphine as a control.

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And, in another experiment, a group of rats received a 7-day course of morphine that ended 1 week before surgery was carried out.

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Before the morphine regimes commenced, and after they had been completed, the rats’ sensitivity to touch was measured, as was the activity of genes related to inflammation in the spinal cord.

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Compared with rats given saline, those that received morphine endured postoperative pain for over 3 additional weeks. Also, the longer the morphine was provided, the longer the rats’ pain lasted.

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The study also revealed that tapering of morphine dosage makes no difference. As Grace explains, “This tells us that this is not a phenomenon related to opioid withdrawal, which we know can cause pain. Something else is going on here.”

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How can morphine raise postoperative pain?

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The next question to ask, of course, is what drives this counterintuitive effect. Prof. Watkins calls it the result of a “one-two hit” on glial cells.

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In the brain, glial cells are more numerous than neurons. They protect and support nerve cells and, as part of their role as protector, they direct the brain’s immune response, including inflammation.

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The first “hit” occurs when surgery activates glial cells’ toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). Prof. Watkins calls these “not me, not right, not O.K.” receptors; they help to orchestrate the inflammatory response. This first hit primes them for action when the second hit occurs.

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The second hit is morphine, which also stimulates TLR4. As Prof. Watkins explains:

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“With that second hit, the primed glial cells respond faster, stronger, and longer than before, creating a much more enduring state of inflammation and sometimes local tissue damage.”

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Although the study is in an animal model and will need replicating in humans, it does line up with previous findings.

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For instance, in 2016, the same scientists published another animal study, which found that a few days of opiate treatment for peripheral nerve pain exacerbated and prolonged pain. In that study, the activation of inflammatory pathways was also implicated.

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“An unusually high number of people end up with postoperative chronic pain,” explains Prof. Watkins. In fact, millions of U.S. individualssuffer with chronic pain. “This new study lends insight into one explanation for that.”

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Interestingly, the rats that received a course of morphine that ended a week before surgery did not experience prolonged postsurgical pain, leading the study authors to conclude that there is “a critical window for morphine potentiation of pain.”

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Because opioids are currently considered the best course of action to deal with postoperative pain, if these results are replicated in humans, it leaves medical science in a difficult situation.

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This is why Prof. Watkins is focusing much of her energy on designing drugs that could be given alongside opioids to dampen down the inflammatory response. She is also exploring alternative painkillers, such as cannabinoids.”

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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